(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Folks That Live on the Hill deals with the functioning of a community. It studies how people form relationships and how they interact. In the novel, the root of the community is the extended "family" that centers on Harry Caldecote, a respected librarian. His immediate family consists of a sister, a brother, the brother's wife, and son. Beyond his blood relationships the concept of family extends to include people like Bunty, who is like a daughter to Harry. Beyond these close relationships lies a circle of friends and lovers who drift in and out of the lives of Harry's family. And beyond these acquaintances are the people who form the backdrop of the community: the tavern owners, barkeeps, taxi drivers, and market owners. These people interact with Harry's family and acquaintances, providing commentary on the principal characters and occasionally playing important roles in the plot, as when the market owners help save a life.

This complex community is the substance of the novel. It shows how people survive by creating complicated webs of love, friendship, and respect with other members of their community. Such webs are seldom perfect, and Amis shows how these relationships can be lost and how people try to compensate for their absence. For instance, Harry has not been able to have a happy marriage. His difficulties with romantic love have led him to become "unusually interested in relations between the sexes." Instead of turning him bitter,...

(The entire section is 476 words.)